So, I’m back from my holiday in Sweden (and briefly in Denmark, too).
I’ve been studying Swedish fairly intensively since January, and more sporadically last year, so for around eighteen months.
I’ve certainly done hundreds of hours in total, a mix of self-study and online conversation lessons.
Looking at the CEFR level descriptors (find them here, about half-way down the page), the text that best matches where I’ve got to is:
Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
The above is the descriptor for B1 (intermediate). Probably I’d put myself somewhere within that band, though perhaps lower rather than higher. Call it a ‘just’ B1 rather than a ‘consolidated’ B1.
So sure, I can understand the MAIN POINTS if it’s CLEAR and on a FAMILIAR TOPIC.
And yes, I can produce SIMPLE, connected text and BRIEFLY give explanations for my opions and plans.
But that’s about it. There’s still some way to go!
If YOU want to self-evaluate your level, one easy way is to focus on the ‘not’.
I read the B2 band descriptor (the next one up) and I can see that I’m ‘not’ there yet, not by a long way. The text mostly describes things I can’t (yet) do.
But the A2 band descriptor (one level down) is ‘not’ me either. I was able to do that stuff, with aplomb, months back!
Hence, by a process of elimination, B1, in the sense of ‘not’ A2 and ‘not’ B2.
Having someone to compare yourself to also helps with the self-evaluation.
B1, for example, is the average English level of an Italian high-school graduate, and the minimum level of English required to graduate from Bologna university.
I’ve met plenty of Italian high school graduates with their poor to average English, and just as many college graduates with weak language skills, who’ve scraped through the B1 exam by the skin of their teeth.
So to self-evaluate your level, use the CEFR descriptors and, to be sure, compare yourself to people you know (are you, for example, the best student in your A1 class? Perhaps that means you’re an A2?)
One final tip is to ignore your teacher’s opinion.
I work in an Italian school with half a dozen full-time, permanent teaching staff. I’d trust THEM to evaluate a student’s level, in part because I’ve trained them to do it, and because they do it frequently, and work in team, meaning that differences of opinion can be thrashed out.
But language teachers in general are very prone to obsess about grammar (you get this a lot with level tests, too.)
You’ll hear them say, oh but you made a mistake with tense X, so you can’t be level Y, you must be level X.
It’s patent nonsense. Level evaluations are only partly related to grammatical accuracy. I still make plenty of mistakes with Italian grammar, but could easily pass the skills (reading, listening, writing, speaking) section of a top-level exam.
Where was I?
I’m B1 in Swedish, then, though not all my teachers would understand the level system used, or agree if they did.
It’s more than I was expecting to achieve when I started but, actually, it’s not very impressive.
B1 is far less than you’d need to get a job in an office, and not nearly impressive enough to add to your resume/curriculm vitae.
B2 would be better, but that’s a year or two away at my current pace.
C1 would be good-enough to study at a Swedish university, in Swedish, but what would be the point of that at my age?
And C2 means near-native-speaker-like competence.
Dream on, Daniel, life is short and you have other priorities.
Many of you will recognise this moment.
You’re no longer a beginner, you’ve learnt a lot.
But it’s been hard work and time-consuming, and there’s still a long way to go.
It’s become apparent that the more you learn, the more it seems there is to learn!
Nebulous goals such as ‘fluency’ recede as you approach them, like Alice’s white rabbit, shooting off down a hole out of reach.
As language-learners, we are well-advised to stop every now and then and take stock.
We should ask ourselves what we have achieved, and how we achieved it, and what options we have for the future.
It’s always useful to define, or redefine, our goals for future study, and to select appropriate study techniques and materials, which might be more appropriate that what we’ve used in the past.
That said, it’s not always obvious what to do next…
I have eleven hours of online lessons left, out of the pack of forty I paid for a couple of months ago.
So it’s an easy decision to continue with one or two lessons a week over the summer months, until they’re all used up.
And as it’s the summer, I should have time to continue to listen to the news in Swedish each day, and to try to read a little too (that’s still hard…)
So the provisional plan is this: to drop down a gear for a while, study less-intensively than before my holiday, but not stop completely.
The idea is to give myself some time for reflection before making a new plan, perhaps in September.
And in the meantime, I thought I might take another look at Turkish, a language that I used to speak well twenty-odd years ago but have now forgotten.
A Turkish teacher in my city sent her CV, looking for work, which might be enough to push me into taking action…
Who’s to say you can’t learn more than one language at a time?
Plenty of people do it, especially university/college students, who’ll often study two languages at once.
A change is as good as a rest, they say. Variety is the spice of life.
The important thing is to not let what you’ve learnt slip away, not to lose the habit of learning.
It doesn’t have to be full-on all the time, though.
It’s summer time, and the living is easy…
Which reminds me, next week is July, and the ‘Summer Sale!’
Watch this space for more information on how to save £££ on your online learning!